Saturday rally on the Plaza included signature gathering for statewide gun control petition
By Holly Dillemuth, Ashland.news
Many drivers passing by Ashland Plaza on Saturday honked in support of individuals wielding signs with sayings like, “Enough Is Enough” and “Protect kids, not guns,” part of a nationwide day of demonstrations led by the “March for Our Lives” organization. Participants called for action on gun legislation in the wake of the deaths of 21 people at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, the worst school shooting since 26 were slain at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut, in 2012.
Ashland resident Joan Campbell was among the line of people standing up for those impacted by gun violence. She’s one of them. Campbell worked as director of E-Learning at Umpqua Community College in 2015 during what is now known as Oregon’s deadliest school shooting.
She was in her office at UCC when the shooting began. The gunman eventually took 10 lives.
“I was standing in the exact same spot where I learned about Sandy Hook when the shooting on our campus started and I was like, ‘This is so unreal,’” Campbell said, “and, ‘how does this continue to happen?’ And here we are, seven years later.”
She also worked in Maryland, just outside of Washington, D.C., during the sniper shootings in 2002.
“My bus driver was killed during the sniper shootings,” Campbell said.
Those events, combined with the most recent shooting and so many since has left her feeling “awful,” she said. But she has moved from a place of trauma to anger.
“I’m more angry because this is so clearly a public health crisis and we’re not treating it that way,” Campbell said. “We need to address it together.”
Wearing a red “Moms Demand Action” T-shirt, she said the group was the first to come up to Roseburg following the shooting there.
“This affects Black and brown communities more than white communities,” Campbell said. “We get up in arms about shootings at Parkland but there’s gun violence every day.”
As a mom, she said the recent shooting has impacted her and her son, Gaten, an incoming sophomore at Ashland High School.
“Being a mom at this time is not fun. You’re always worried about what’s going to happen with your kid, but at the same time, we don’t want to let them win,” she said. “We want to go about and live our lives. I want my kid to organize protests and do the amazing things that he does.”
Gaten, who turned 15 on Sunday, had planned to get together a student protest earlier that morning, but instead combined it with the overall protest.
“I refuse to become a second-generation school shooting survivor,” Gaten said, “and she’s taught me how to stick up for myself.”
Holding a sign depicting the words spoken by the late Civil Rights leader, John Lewis, that said, “Good Trouble,” Gaten shared his thoughts as he stood on the Plaza with his friends, Daniela Purnot and Saphyre Lee, both 15, who joined him holding signs about the need for change.
Campbell said that hearing about the Uvalde, Texas, shooting was “shocking” but “also kind of routine.”
“I wish that it were more shocking than it was,” Lee said.
“We don’t feel safe and I don’t think there’s anything people can do to make us feel safe besides passing legislation,” Gaten said.
Not far away in the crowd, Ashland resident Kathy House stood with her Portuguese Water Dog, Peixe.
Coming to the rally was a purposeful act for House, who wants to keep working to stop acts of gun violence until they stop happening.
“I am trying to do one thing a day to stop gun violence,” House said.
The grandmother of three — ages 9, 11, and 13 — said she wants to take one action a day, whether it’s a donation, a letter or spurring others on to do the same.
“I just don’t see why we have assault weapons,” House said. “We need to have a conversation to fix it because I don’t want my grandkids to die … at school.
“I just think we don’t need to have the Wild West in our lives today,” House added. “It doesn’t make sense.”
House’s friend, Chris Schumacher, also of Ashland and a member of Oregon District 2 (ORD2) Indivisible, an activist group in Oregon’s Congressional District 2, brought her Golden Retriever, Teak, down to the rally.
“Uvalde just broke me,” Schumacher said. “It’s kind of like the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, but I’m just heartbroken. I don’t understand why it’s political. I don’t understand why anyone thinks they need an AR-15 and I just think we need to do something about it.”
The event was organized by ORD2 Indivisible, Veterans for Peace, and Southern Oregon Women’s March, in conjunction with a national group called “March for our Lives,” which started following the Parkland, Florida, shooting where 14 students and three staff members were killed by a shooter armed with an AR-15.
Allen Hallmark, with Veterans for Peace, was among the crowd on Saturday.
“We were all just suckerpunched when we heard the news of Uvalde,” Hallmark said.
ORD2 members started talking about the concept for a rally in Ashland.
Hallmark said the rally, while meant to gather moral support for improved gun control legislation, also served to gather signatures for a petition for improved gun control measures that area groups plan to send to “Lift Every Voice Oregon,” a Portland-based group.
“There are people in southern Oregon who want to see real gun control happen,” Hallmark said.
To learn more about Lift Every Voice Oregon, go to lifteveryvoiceoregon.com.
Reach Ashland.news reporter Holly Dillemuth at email@example.com.